I paid a premium for food and other goods in China and India simply because I was a rich western guest and I could afford a friendly markup. I learned to accept the small gouge as long as I never felt the knife twist and the price exceed a reasonable inflation, which is one where I still get a deal and the vendor feels good that he screwed me.
In Rome, the outsider-premium feels nastier because the cost of living is already inflated.
The other day I went to the butcher to buy a pork roast for dinner and it cost a whopping 37 euros. That’s 51 US dollars.
For pork. For a small roast to feed six.
I should have refused to pay but sometimes the battle isn’t worth it. Instead, I won’t return and I will tell everyone not to go to the Macelleria on Via dei Balestrari.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been gouged in Rome. I spent 80 euros at a vegetable stand in Campo di Fiori at Christmas. In a country that oozes fresh produce, what possible equation of vegetables adds up to 110 dollars?
These are exceptional examples but still, Rome is noticeably expensive. I don’t have extravagant habits and I think twice about buying anything here that isn’t necessary. (Jim is a good man not to debate how I define “necessary.”)
The average cost of a few items?
Taxi fare: To travel 5 kilometers (3 miles) to my Italian class, it costs me 14 euros or just short of 20-bucks. I always walk home. The meter starts at 3.20 euros ($4) during the day and 4.50 euros ($6.20) at night.
Gas: 1.80 euros /liter or $7.20/gallon.
Movie ticket: 8 euros ($11). I suspect this is about the same in the US.
A pair of Levis 501 Jeans: 85-euros ($117) on Amazon.it. You won’t find Levis for under 100 euros on the street.
Cup of Coffee: 1 euro ($1.30).
Milk: 1.50 euros a quart. ($6.00/gallon)
Rent: About 1000 euros ($1400) a bedroom in the city center. Jim thinks this is a low estimate and he may be right but it’s a good general guide.
George’s description of the Italian boys at his school:
They dress in cool clothes.
They always talk when the teacher is talking.
They hang with the pretty girls.
I’ve belonged to a book club through most of my adult life. The groups have varied in their commitment to discourse of matters literary. Some clubs didn’t stray from discussing the book; others discussed everything but the book. Many offered a good balance between sorority and structure. Wine has been a constant.
In Rome, my book club has chosen to forego the book but not the company. We meet every other Thursday at one of Rome’s unique venues – a rooftop view, a cozy enoteca, or a sidewalk restaurant. Reading may not be the gathering’s raison d’être, but the women who meet are smart and successful and we manage to cover a lot of significant and gossy ground. It’s nice to touch base after a hectic fortnight of to-ing and fro-ing on the mommy train. The group includes a school administrator, an IT communications specialist, a gender-equality legal advocate, a nutritionist, an actress, a costume designer…
Of course, I am still always with a book – and these days, two. My new habit is to read only fiction at my bedside and non-fiction during the day. On deck: The Swerve (How the World Became Modern) and The Leopard (by Lampedusa).
Good to see you, spring:
We spent an afternoon on the Appian Way, the ancient Roman highway that extends from the city wall to the sea. Some stretches still have the original stone paving and you can see ruts made by chariots that traveled along the road. Ruins and fields and views line this section of the highway which is only 15 minutes from the city: